But he said to her, You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God…
I. HOW FAR WE ARE ALLOWED TO GRIEVE FOR OUR CALAMITIES: or how far grief is consistent with a state of resignation. Christianity may regulate our grief, as it does every other passion; but does not pretend to extinguish it. Ungrateful and unwelcome things will make harsh and ungrateful impressions upon us. Our sensibility, whether of joy or misery, arises in proportion to our ingenuity. A man of a coarser frame shall slight those afflictions which fall heavy upon a more refined disposition. An over-refined delicacy, however, is almost as bad an extreme, as an unfeeling stupidity. It is allowable, it is even commendable for us to feel a generous movement of soul, and to be touched with the distresses of other people. Grief may even sometimes be necessary to take off any hardness of heart, and to make it more pliant and ductile, by melting it down. If our self-feeling be the foundation of our fellow feeling, then, as soon as reason can shine out in its full strength, the virtues of humanity and tender-heartedness will spring up, as from a willing soil, in a mind prepared and softened by grief. The first starts and sallies of grief, under any calamity, are always pardonable; it is only a long and continued course of grief, when the soul refuses to be comforted, that is inexcusable. And it is most inexcusable when it bears no proportion to its real cause. Melancholy in excess is an accursed spirit. Violent tempestuous sorrows are like hurricanes; they soon spend themselves, and all is soon clear and serene again. There is more danger from a silent, pensive grief, which, like a slow lingering fog, shall continue a long time, and blot the face of nature all around. We must guard against any settled habit of grief. It is our duty to promote social happiness. Cheerfulness and inoffensive pleasantry make us agreeable to others, whereas habitual melancholy damps the good humour of society. Not to enjoy with cheerfulness the blessings which remain to us, is not to treat them as what they are, namely, blessings, and consequently matters of joy and complacency. Sorrow is criminal when we have little or nothing to torment us but, what is the greatest tormenter of all, our own uneasy spirit. They who are continually complaining of inconveniences seem incapable of relishing anything but heaven; for which a complaining temper will by no means prepare them.
II. UPON WHAT PRINCIPLES OUR RESIGNATION TO GOD IS TO BE FOUNDED. A full confidence in the Deity, Job had, that He would make the sum of his happiness, either here or hereafter, greatly exceed that of his misery. To found virtue upon the will of God, enforced by proper sanctions, is to found it upon a rock. Arguments from the unendowed beauty of virtue, and from the abstract fitnesses of things, are of too fine and delicate a texture to combat the force of the passions, or to stand the shock of adversity. The hopes of a better world can alone make this tolerable to us. We know little of a future state from the light of nature. Revelation has enlarged our views, it insures to us, what reason could never prove, a fulness of pardon upon our repentance, and an uninterrupted enjoyment of clear happiness, truth, and virtue, forever and ever. What we must feel as men, we may bear as more than men, through the grace of God.
III. SOME RULES FOR THE PRACTICE OF THIS DUTY OF SUBMISSION.
1. Do not expect perfect happiness. That depends not upon ourselves alone, but upon a coincidence of several things which seldom hit all right.
2. If you would not be overmuch troubled at the loss of anything, take care to keep your affections disengaged. As soon as you have placed your affections too intensely beyond a certain point on anything below, from that moment you may date your misery. We lean upon earthly things with too great a stress, the consequence of which is, that, when they slip from under us, our fall is more hurtful, in proportion to the weight and stress with which we relied upon them.
3. Reflect on the advantages you have rather than be always dwelling on those you have not. Turn your thoughts to the bright side of things. Lead a life which knows no vacancy from generous sentiments, and then "the spirit of a man will sustain his infirmities." How many are more miserable than you!
4. Reflect, how reasonable it is, that our wills should be conformable and resigned to the Divine. Look then upon this world as one wide ocean, where many are shipwrecked and irrecoverably lost, more are tossed and fluctuating, but none can secure to themselves, for any considerable time, a future undisturbed calm. The ship, however, is still under sail, and whether the weather be fair or foul, we are every minute making nearer approaches to, and must shortly reach the shore. And may it be the haven where we would be! Then shall we understand that what we mistook for and miscalled misfortunes, were, in the true estimate of things, advantages, invaluable advantages. When all human means fail, the Deity can still, upon any extraordinary emergency, adapt His succours to our necessities.
(J. Seed, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.